LOWDEN — They auctioned off a big part of the Valley’s history on Saturday, as close to $1 million in collectible farm equipment, autos and motorcycles were sold to the highest bidders.
“Most every piece here came from the Walla Walla area,” said Theodore Small, the grandson of the man who collected 60 years of treasures, Lowden farmer Ted Small.
On Saturday, the Small estate auction took up about 10 acres of a mowed alfalfa field, where hundreds of people converged and roamed around, looking at and considering more than 400 separate lots that were auctioned off by Macon Brothers Auctioneers.
The items included everything from large hit-and-miss engines to small engine parts. There was even a bathtub thrown in. But for the most part, the items Small collected over the years tended to be related to farming, cars or bikes, like a 1941 Indian 441 motorcycle that went for $50,000.
“Somebody said they saw Jay Leno’s plane,” Bob Rupar joked.
Leno is known as an avid collector of Harley and Indian motorcycles; he wasn’t seen at this auction. But he didn’t need to be there because most of the items could be bid for online.
“That’s the interesting thing about auctions. You aren’t going to get a steal anymore because everyone is bidding online,” Rupar added.
Only collectors would know if steals were made. But one thing that was apparent, by 3 p.m. on Saturday the Small estate had brought in about $800,000, and less than half the lots had been sold.
The highest selling item by Saturday afternoon was a 1910 Auburn touring automobile that went for $95,000.
Other noteworthy sales were a collection of beat-up old tractors and earth movers that went for a total of about $200,000.
Small said he remembered crawling around on some of the bigger rigs, especially the 1960s Caterpillar.
“We just had fun,” he said.
Jack Fletcher also remembers some of the fun the local youths would have when Small would start the engines.
“They would line up their tractors and motors and fire them up just for something to do,” Fletcher said, adding that its common for farmers to store old equipment and collectibles in their vast expanses of land.
“There are some farmers who do, but not usually to this extent,” he added.
Ed Samuel remembered when he added to the Small collection about 10 years ago.
“I saw a motor that I sold him for $125. It sold (Saturday) for $1,150,” he said.
Samuel did not try buy it back, and he was doubtful if he would be bidding at all on Saturday.
“It all depends if there can be a bargain found here,” he said.
It might not have been a bargain, but there was one lot that sold early on that was probably the best buy of the day.
It was a Fairbanks-Morse type single cylinder gas engine that sold for $600. But that was nothing compared to its sentimental value.
“I bought the first engine I ever restored with my grandfather,” Small said. “I hope most of it can stay in the area.”
At least one Fairbanks-Morse engine will.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.